Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Uber #13 - Avatar Press

UBER No. 13, April 2014
One of the publisher’s “favourite characters in the book”, this standalone issue of “Uber” “basically focuses” upon the deeds of former Soviet Sniper and recent gulag escapee ‘Katyusha Maria’ after she is taken in by a pair of elderly Ukrainian Kulaks deported to live in Siberia. As a result this instalment of the “alternate World War Two” series is “not a bad one to dabble in if you want to try” out the title, for although its narrative “touches on the larger thrust” of the Axis and Allies independently developing their own superhuman soldiers in 1945, “you don’t need any more knowledge than the isolated farmers” who house the “errant god” in order to both understand and enjoy the rather fantastical and grisly story.

Certainly as a twenty-two page periodical, which creator Kieron Gillen has acknowledged as an edition he is “actually pretty fond of”, this tale set deep within “the east of the USSR” must have made compelling reading for its 7,653 readers in May 2014, as it both explores the ex-markswoman’s “inexplicable Uber abilities” and just how harshly the Russian Government treated large parts of its population during this period in its history. Indeed the one-time British music journalist’s depiction of the arrogantly brutal Red Army’s response to “Kolkhoz’s messiah” and the subsequent horrifically bloody mutilation of its Manchurian tanks and “big men” at the hands of Maria is extremely well-written; especially as the confrontation is told through the awe-struck terrified eyes of Yuliya and Marat as they huddle together within the darkness of their humble wooden home’s cellar.

Somewhat disappointingly however, the Stafford-born author’s storyline doesn’t quite answer all the questions the sudden appearance of his one-time Prisoner of War creates and most notably completely ignores the fact that previously “The Manic Sniper” had actually lost one of her hands during the Battle of Berlin. Equally as mystifying is Maria’s bizarre transformation of soil into an edible “sweet” mud and just how she discovered her halo effect could make such a miraculous conversion in the first place; “It’s what I’ve been eating out there. Kept alive, just.”

The definite high-point of this comic however has to be the superb, well-detailed artwork of Gabriel Andrade. The Brazilian’s meticulous renderings of the harsh life on a Siberian homestead, coupled with his gobsmackingly gory illustrations of dismemberment and evisceration, really help make Gillen’s wonderfully dramatic script ‘pop’ into animated life, page after gruesome page.
The variant cover art of "UBER" No. 13 by Gabriel Andrade

Monday, 28 September 2015

Skull The Slayer #3 - Marvel Comics

SKULL THE SLAYER No. 3, January 1976
The last of three issues written by series creator Marv Wolfman before he became ensconced within Seventies “Marvel Comics” politics as Editor-in-Chief, “Tumult In The Tower Of Time!” proves to be an incredibly exhilarating read even though it contains several bemusing twists within its narrative which make little to no sense whatsoever with the storyline that preceded them. Indeed despite the utterly implausible nature of a Prehistoric world suddenly populated by a purely robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex and containing an unfathomably tall barbican where “every level of this tower-- is another time” the Brooklyn-born author’s script still somehow manages to jell together in order to provide “Skull The Slayer” with an astonishingly enjoyable seventeen-page ride.

It is certainly hard to think of much else the two-time Eagle Award-winner could give his super-strong titular character to do within so short a time frame, as the “little dinosaur hunter” not only plays rodeo cowboy with a gigantic primordial horned horse, flees a herd of rampaging carnivores and confronts a party of Pharaoh’s armoured warriors from “Ancient Egypt”. But he also appears to be imbued with the curiosity of a 'pulp fiction' investigator as he examines a grave-yard filled full of the staked out rotting corpses of “air force pilots [and] ship’s captains” who’ve “been dead for years”, before ascending an alien pylon, covered in identical writing to “the stuff” in the cave where he found his scorpion-powered belt and which is so tall that it “goes through the clouds and above.”

Disappointingly the New Yorker’s handling of Jim Scully’s supporting cast though is not quite so successful, especially when it comes to the trained soldier’s primary antagonist, the bigoted braggart Raymond Corey. The African-American physicist’s blatant prejudice towards the group’s “great white leader” increasingly grates upon the nerves, and it becomes increasingly hard to understand just how, given their stressful circumstances, the Vietnam veteran doesn’t make good on his promise and batter the Doctor; especially after the adventurer saves the ‘loud-mouthed’ “past-master of good cheer” from falling to his death over a cliff edge and is verbally abused by the scientist in return.

Fortunately Steve Gan’s pencilling more than makes up for any failings with Wolfman’s penmanship, with the “naturalised Filipino of Chinese origin” producing some highly-charged action-packed panels as the tale unfolds. In fact his sequence depicting James somersaulting himself off of the back of his antediluvian ride and then slowing down his momentum by cartwheeling through some nearby trees is extremely-well drawn.
Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman, Pencils: Steve Gan, and Inks: Pablo Marcus & Steve Gan

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Batman Beyond #4 - DC Comics

BATMAN BEYOND No. 4, November 2015
Mismanaging “the challenge of being essentially one long fight scene” this fourth instalment of “Brave New Worlds” arguably only succeeds in demonstrating just what a poor choice writer Dan Jurgens made when deciding to have Tim Drake as his “Batman Beyond”. For although this entire twenty-page periodical does little else but depict Brother Eye’s metropolis-scale invasion of Neo-Gotham, it also shows a frustratingly gullible and incompetent “replacement” Dark Knight, whose gross ineptitude whilst fighting the autonomous entity’s cybernetic subjugation simply reinforces Micron’s opinion that “the clothes don’t make the man.”

Indeed, having naively allowed his enemy to penetrate the Batsuit’s artificial intelligence system and thus take the City of the Future’s protective “veil” offline, this comic’s titular character is unrecognisable as the same “smart” youth who once “solved Gotham’s greatest mystery in order to discover Bruce Wayne’s secret identity and was actually “worthy of being Robin”.

Such a series of disappointing failings must inevitably fall upon the poor penmanship of this book’s Ortonville-born author. Whose “some thirty-five years from now” narrative would arguably have been far better served if he had created an all-new personality to don the state-of-the-art costume, rather than seemingly try and re-invent the personality of one “who once held a… prominent position in the DC Universe.” The creator of Booster Gold certainly doesn’t seem to have any problems in ensuring that Commissioner Gordon is given plenty of strong resourceful moments within this issue’s storyline, as the tough, determined fighter soon realises the hopelessness of battling Brother Eye one-on-one, as Terry McGinnis’ substitute tries to do, and instead logically reasons that they need ‘something Batman can fight the invasion with’ other than his fists…

Competent yet visually rather cluttered, Bernard Chang’s artwork for this comic is as furiously busy as one would expect from an illustrator depicting all the action and high-octane drama of a city-wide incursion. In fact despite the plot predominantly centring on Drake’s disheartening efforts, the Asian American designer still manages to provide the reader with plenty of glimpses as to just how wide-scale this robotic annexation is by ‘littering’ his pages with numerous micro-panels depicting battles further afield.
The regular cover art of "BATMAN BEYOND" No. 4 by Dan Panosian

Friday, 25 September 2015

Marvel Zombies #2 - Marvel Comics

MARVEL ZOMBIES No. 2, September 2015
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly for a book “packed with [the] festering, corrupted, undead versions of your favourite Marvel characters” this second “Secret Wars” instalment of the popular “Marvel Zombies” franchise didn’t even make it into the top fifty best-selling comics of July 2015 and as a result only 39,148 readers got to initially enjoy Elsa Bloodstone’s continuing journey across “a wasteland full of indescribable horrors”. Such an oversight has arguably deprived many a bibliophile of some of the best ‘creatively evil’ supervillain cameos seen throughout the publisher’s “Battleworld” tie-ins, with writer Simon Spurrier’s ability to weave these colourful ‘walk-ons’ within a tale filled with “putrid wads of horror” and “incredible action” being beyond doubt one the highlights of “Journey Into Misery”.

The two “convenient moveable snack[s]” early chance meeting with a decaying, paralysed M.O.D.O.K. certainly proves an entertaining encounter. For despite the AIM engineered monstrosity having “melted into his own electrics” the living corpse still retains ‘some weapons which are active’ and thus of use to the wanderers. In addition it is hard to imagine a more indignant end to one of Stan Lee’s co-creations than being rolled downhill by the “unflappable” Shield Commander and blown-up in the resultant explosion; “Ow ow ow ow. M-Moribund… organism… d-designed only f…for cannibalism…”

Somewhat less humorously written but infinitely more ‘icky’ is the female monster-hunter’s confrontation with a “dried out” Carnage, a pair of “dupe effect” Sauron zombies and a rather sinister-looking undead Constrictor. Indeed the unflappable Brit’s swift decapitation of the alien symbiote and the creature’s resultant revival due to its “ssscab” being broken is a particularly gross and yucky moment; possibly only surpassed by the grisly sight of several living heads on spikes smelling Elsa's stealthy approach to Mystique’s campsite on account of the wallhead’s “meatstink!”

All of this blood, mutilation and dismemberment is wonderfully drawn by Kev Walker, with the Leeds-based artist’s stomach-churningly detailed putrefying M.O.D.O.K., complete with writhing diminutive limbs, proving to be especially well-pencilled. Possibly less successful however is the illustrator’s gun-toting Ranger Worthington from “Shield-section seven-niner.” Sporting a sort of bizarre flattop hairstyle, wings and a long grey trench coat, the battle-weary Angel simply doesn’t look right, even though the X-Man is clearly wearing an almost identical ‘uniform’ to that of Bloodstone.
Writer: Simon Spurrier, Artist: Kev Walker, and Color Artists:Guru-eFX

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Brave And The Bold #194 - DC Comics

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD No. 194, January 1983
It’s hard to imagine what inspired Mike W. Barr into penning this twenty-three page periodical’s plot based upon a motivational therapist counselling “the Rainbow Raider and Doctor X to take on each other’s super-heroic opponents… and defeat them.” But whatever it was certainly created one of the more ludicrously unusual tales for the long-running title and could arguably be suggestive as to just the why “The Brave And The Bold” was cancelled by “DC Comics” just six issues later.

Certainly the American writer’s rather farcical prologue leaves a fair bit to be desired as an overly confident bespectacled Professor Andrea Wye somehow manages to convince the depressed “three-time-loser” super-criminals Roy Bivolo and Doctor Ecks that by simply repeatedly chanting “I believe in me” they can somehow remove their “negative thinking caps”, “shatter the[ir] chains of nega-think” and best the formidable duo of Batman and the Flash. Admittedly the counsellor’s method, recommended in her new book “Be All The Person You Can Be”, does prove to be a short-lived success. But only because Barr’s contrived narrative bestows upon both the Scarlet Speedster and Dark Knight an incredulous amount of incompetence and coincidental bad-luck.

Simply because Barry Allen supposedly “is far from the Batman’s equal in intellect” should not mean that the super-hero can be so easily manoeuvred into an unavoidable blast from Doctor X; especially one which is delivered along an underground pipe that the villain fortunately “sensed ‘neath the ground” whilst the trio are battling in the middle of the countryside. Similarly, if all the Rainbow Raider has to do to defeat Batman is create an unbreakable prison prism around him whilst the Caped Crusader is “trying to avoid a multi-coloured sunburn” then why doesn’t Bivolo defeat all his foes so easily?

Just as disappointing is the thinking behind this comic’s “showdown”, as having clearly done some incredibly detailed research into both her patients and their prey, the Professor apparently forgets about the Flash’s “super-speed metabolism” and thus fails to inject him with enough sedative until after she has “induce[d] these heroes to reveal the secrets they possess… The secrets of the Justice League Satellite and time-travel, among others…” Once free the Crimson Comet unsurprisingly rescues Batman by matching the frequency of his prism prison, and then preposterously detains Doctor X by merely dousing him and his "banished" brother with water.

Dishearteningly the artwork for this book by Will Eisner Award Hall of Famer Carmine Michael Infantino is equally less than inspiring, with many of the magazine’s dialogue-laden panels being drawn with the characters rather tediously just stood side-on to one another. Somewhat encouragingly the New Yorker’s pencilling does become rather more energised during the fight scenes. But even these sequences contain some rather wooden and uninspiring illustrations, such as Batman’s rather robotic-looking punch upon the Rainbow Raider whilst flying across the city’s skyline via a bat-line.
Writer: Mike W. Barr, and Guest Artists: Carmine Infantino & Sal Trapani

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Batman #24 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 24, December 2013
Described by “DC Comics” as an “amazing, double-sized issue” that contains “a major surprise [which] will change the course of… Batman’s life”, this fifty-four page periodical must still have been something of a disappointment to many of its 124,652 buyers in October 2013 with its “punk rock” shaven-headed Bruce Wayne, reimagining of the Red Hood into Gotham City’s primary Crime Lord and inclusion of Edward Nygma as a major early foe of the Dark Knight. Indeed in his exertions to make this take on Frank Miller’s “Year One” “entirely different”, Scott Snyder has, in many ways, arguably made his narrative unrecognisable as the origin of the Caped Crusader; especially as it features a militaristic-looking thuggish billionaire, who survives his encounter with the mysterious terrorist more through luck than judgement and actually shoots Jim Gordon (with a bean gun) during the self-same confrontation.   

Admittedly there’s no doubting the New Yorker’s commitment to his frustrating storyline containing plenty of ‘Bat-tastic’ action. For once a scarred, yet still seemingly fresh-faced, twenty-five year-old Industrialist finishes some incredibly lengthy conversations and investigates Ace Chemicals, the pace of “Dark City” increases at an astonishing rate and has Batman battling not only an apparently endless army of Red Hood Gang members, but the Gotham City Police Department as well; “You will not leap, fly, or hang upside down. You will surrender quietly or I will shoot you. Do you understand?”

In fact despite this battle being unceremoniously interrupted by the sacrificial death of Wayne’s Uncle Philip (Kane), otherwise known as “Red Hood Three-Forty-Seven”, and the unexpected appearance of the Riddler towards the end of the comic, the cowled crime-fighter’s pulse-pounding punch-up with the multiple ruby-masked arms dealers is probably some of Snyder’s best work since “The New 52” title started publication. Certainly Batman’s clash with his dome-wearing arch-nemesis atop the burning chemical factory is potentially one of the best-scripted struggles yet printed between the two popular antagonists.    

Dishearteningly the quality of Greg Capullo’s artwork follows in a similar vein to that of the American author’s writing, in that for the first third of the magazine, the Schenectady-born penciller’s drawings, whilst more than competent, lack any sense of dynamism or life. Once Bruce dons his famous costume and tackles the Red Hood Gang however, then the self-taught illustrator’s panels almost leap off of the page with exhilarating vivacity. Sadly the same cannot be said for the dire (back) pages outlined by Rafael Albuquerque. The Brazilian comic book creator’s sketchy style horribly jars with the far more precise, animated pictures of Capullo, and as a result look all the more stiff and unappealing with his cardboard Bruce Wayne, occasionally portly-looking Pennyworth and abominable Riddler.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 24 by Guillem March

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Uber Special #1 - Avatar Press

UBER SPECIAL No. 1, March 2014
A rather entertainingly “good single issue” with its “three short stories… digging into the background of the three [German] Battleships” and “the first non-Caanan [White] art”, this “Uber Special” is unlike any of the “hard-backed oversized Kids books” published annually for British children at Christmas, which creator Kieron Gillen has stated influenced the composition of the “one-shot.” In fact this thirty-page periodical, crammed full of Nazis either blowing their own brains out with a Luger, literally melting the faces off of supposed “Versailles criminals” with boiling hot liquid metal, or tearing a man in half whilst being completely naked, would doubtless have left any hapless nine-year-old, ordinarily used to the jokey japes of “Whizzer And Chips” or “The Beano”, scarred for life.

Arguably even the adult-orientated audience of “Avatar Press” publications may struggle with some of this one-shot’s more disturbing plot-points, particularly that of the highly prejudicial Siegfried, who clearly revels in the atrocities his new found powers allow him to commit. It is certainly little wonder that the former music journalist has acknowledged that this “annual” “includes some of the most horrific material” in “Uber”.

Quite possibly because of such disquiet this comic’s opening narrative “The Battle Of The Spree Forest” is easily the least gruesomely gory tale of the over-sized anthology, and actually for the most part is a fairly standard ‘run-of-the-mill’ tale of a super-strong soldier rescuing “untold thousands of civilians… and the remains of the Ninth [Army]” from Soviet soldiers and tanks. Admittedly Daniel Gete’s depictions of the Russians being torn apart, limb by limb, as a result of the German’s halo effect are gratuitously ghastly. But it really isn’t until the Spaniard draws Wenck blowing the top of his head off that the short story becomes especially grisly.

“Toy Soldiers” on the other hand provides little in the way of visual vulgarities and instead focuses upon Gillen’s unsettling depiction of an infant Ubermensch, being taught an unashamedly bigoted lesson by his bitter mother that it was the Jews who “betrayed” Germany and caused “a nation like ours [to] lose”. The young Markus’ fatal reprisal upon an entirely innocent passer-by is incredibly disturbing, especially as the Battleship is so nonchalant in his telling of the anecdote; “It was in the papers the next day. The Jew died apparently.”

Finally by far the most heart-rending of the Stafford-born writer’s fictions is “The Bitter Cup”, a genuinely sad touching tale of love irreconcilably brutalised by the War that is only marred by artist Gabriel Andrade’s disconcerting decision to have the "god of vengeance” entirely naked during her bloody but swift confrontation with a “combatant enhanced to the Level of a V1.”
The variant cover art of "UBER SPECIAL" No. 1 by Gabriel Andrade

Monday, 21 September 2015

Batman #23.4 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 23.4, November 2013
It is incredible to believe that in September 2013 this so-called “DC Comics” Villains Month one-shot was the eighth best-selling comic according to “Diamond Comic Distributors” and somehow managed to shift an astonishing 95,298 copies. For whilst this twenty-page periodical features the notable artwork of Bane’s co-creator Graham Nolan, Peter J. Tomasi's storyline for “Dark Destiny” is bitterly disappointing, with the ‘Man Who Broke the Bat’ appearing as a sadistic brutal thug who lacks any of the “exceptional intelligence” he was originally imbued with.

In fact the publisher’s Senior Editor appears to go to some quite extraordinary lengths to depict his incarnation of Bane as little more than a savage unthinking cold-blooded killer. Even having the heavily-muscled supervillain strike a young girl and threaten to kill her after he has horrifically snapped the spinal cord of her father right in front of the pony-tailed kid’s eyes.

Admittedly any long-term followers of “Batman” will be aware of just how vicious a character the “hero” of the Caribbean Republic of Santa Prisca can be. But having endured yet another recap of the former Pena Duro prisoner’s rise to power, and subsequent defeat at the hands of Gotham City’s “otherworldly demon”, it is arguably entirely unnecessary to then have to watch as King Snake’s Venom-enhanced son mercilessly beats a bound captive to death with his bare hands simply to demonstrate just how tough he is; “Get the next one ready.”

Even more disappointing however has to be Tomasi’s so-called ending for this single-issue story as it actually insufferably concludes just as Bane has dispatched one of his men to murder the Scarecrow and the ruthless masked maniac reaches Gotham Harbour on board a container ship packed full of armed militants and tanks. Indeed it is very clear why this comic was heavily criticised at the time for being nothing more than “an extended prologue” for the forthcoming turf war series “Forever Evil: Arkham War”, as it simply finishes with Bane optimistically declaring that “Gotham City is mine!”

Possibly equally as disenchanted with the “Brightest Day” co-writer’s script, Graham Nolan’s illustrations lack any consistency whenever the American penciller strays too far from drawing one of the Dark Knight’s most formidable foes, and even then many of the panels lack sufficient detail to be especially pleasing to the eye. Certainly the work of Chuck Dixon’s frequent collaborator pales when compared to the stunningly impressive 3D motion cover by Guillem March.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi, Artist: Graham Nolan, and Colorist: John Kalisz

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Uber #12 - Avatar Press

UBER No. 12, April 2014
Series creator Kieron Gillen openly admits at the end of this comic that penning the script for Issue Twelve of “Uber” was difficult, and came at a time, due to a family bereavement, when “writing anything was hard.” As a result it is somewhat easy to forgive parts of this dreary Stephanie ‘one-shot’, even if the tediously dull and uninteresting twenty-two page periodical provides little forward movement to the former computer games journalist’s “alternate World War Two” narrative.

Admittedly not all of the scenes within this comic book are as dialogue heavy and difficult to persevere through as the British writer’s opening, which depicts British modernist author “…Virginia Woolf , in person, speaking to us all” in a lecture at Girton, Cambridge. The revelation as to just how enormous and terrible-looking the grotesque “Heavy Battleship” Leah Cohen is proves to be a particularly fascinating, if not alarming, scene. Whilst Stephanie’s drunken realisation that she too “can be an enhanced human” should she expose herself to the catalyst will surely be more fully explored as a future dilemma; “Give it to me. I’ve killed people for less.”

Sadly however the majority of this magazine does arguably do little but demonstrate just how dishonest, dislikeable and manipulative the red-headed secret agent can be. Not only does she apparently openly lie to a battle-weary Tommy about sneaking into one of her much older sister’s college lectures, in order to simply impress upon him that she’s been “cursed with an exceptional memory”. But Stephanie is just as dishonest with her disfigured creation, Cohen, when she blatantly boasts “I was a most gifted child… I speak more languages than there are countries in Europe.” It is therefore little wonder that towards the end of this instalment her confidant, computer scientist Alan Turing, shouts at her that he “can’t abide how you lie.”

Perhaps this edition’s most disquieting aspect though is the replacement of series regular artist Caanan White for Gabriel Andrade. Gillen is equally candid about replacing the African-American penciller in his ‘Afterword’ as he was about his writer’s block, and cites that “basically due to the last couple of issues of Caanan’s epic thirteen-issue-of-comics-in-a-row running a little late” “Avatar Press” needed “to alternate artists between the major arcs.” Fortunately the Instituto dos Quadrinhos comic book illustrator brings a heavily detailed style to the proceedings, with his double-splash of the Second London Blitz aftermath, rife with mutilated Tank-Men and gory bodily entrails, proving to be especially gruesome and memorable.
The variant cover art of "UBER" No. 12 by Gabriel Andrade

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Tomb Of Dracula #8 - Marvel Comics

TOMB OF DRACULA No. 8, May 1973
Whilst Marv Wolfman’s second script for “Tomb Of Dracula” is undeniably a thrilling action-packed read, crammed full of the Count’s frightful machinations for world domination, as well as more of the living dead than even Rachel van Helsing can shake a sharpened stake at, “The Hell-Crawlers” also disappointingly relies upon its readers to take an awful lot of the Shazam Award-winner’s plot devices at face value. For not only does the Brooklyn-born writer conjure up an unnamed “quick-acting poison” which swiftly threatens to slice through Dracula’s “vital organs” and forever contaminate him. But he also creates the character of a physician vampire who has both somehow managed to sire a human daughter and create “an instrument of the damned” imaginatively called “The Projector!”

Indeed it is rather hard to imagine a less convincing narrative in a Bronze Age comic book, especially when Doctor Heinrich Mortte’s invention looks exactly like a genuine household "opto-mechanical device for displaying film" and yet is apparently somehow capable of “raising from the grave an army of living vampires” all under the Count’s control. Certainly Bram Stoker’s villainous fiend has never looked more ludicrous than when he raises the film projector aloft above his head and excitedly exclaims “Now I have the power to create an army of undefeatable vampires… Ha! Ha! Ha”. Little wonder that the aristocrat’s bearded subject “rue[s] the day I first conceived this horror...”

Equally as hard to accept within this twenty-page periodical is Wolfman’s unbelievably idiotic portrayal of Dracula and the Transylvanian nobleman’s foolish treatment of the ‘teacher of medicine’. The creator of Blade quickly establishes, through the blood-drinker’s physical abuse of the “insufferable” Clifton Graves, that his version of the Lord of Vampires is highly intolerant of his servants. But having pushed Mortte to his moral threshold's breaking point by contemptuously belittling the scientist whilst he takes the Projector from him, the sneering 'immortal' then incomprehensibly tells Heinrich that the doctor’s “daughter must be our first victim… to show the world we vampires hold no quarter for anyone!” It is therefore little wonder that upon hearing this the elderly consultant steals back the instrument he “should have destroyed… years ago” and shatters it upon “the ice-capped ground” in his death-throes.

Fortunately Issue Eight of “Tomb Of Dracula” still proves to be an entertaining experience as a result of Gene Colan’s exemplary pencilling and Ernie [Chua] Chan’s inks. In fact the artistic duo really seem to have been at their best whilst producing this comic strip, especially towards the book’s end as Dracula and Mortte lock fangs in the guise of giant flying bats, and Quincy escapes certain death at the tiny hands of a horde of hypnotised youths.
Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Gene Colan, and Inker: Ernie Chan

Friday, 18 September 2015

Aliens Vs. Zombies #2 - Zenescope Entertainment

ALIENS VS. ZOMBIES No. 2, August 2015
Selling a depressingly paltry 3,001 copies during August 2015, despite its four frighteningly chilling colourful variant covers, this second instalment of the five-issue “Zombie virus hits Earth” mini-series by “Zenescope Entertainment” still provides plenty of gruesomely gory entertainment for any perusing horror-based fan. In fact Nova’s furious decapitation of an alleyway full of reanimated corpses with a rotating blade is seriously ‘icky stuff’. Especially as the extra-terrestrial “survivor” spends a couple of subsequent panels gasping for breath as her shocked ship-mates survey the scene of dismemberment and mutilation around their enraged captain.

Predominantly however Joe Brusha’s narrative concentrates upon the lamentably bloodless historical plague infestation of the Sarkillian Homeworld Shimera, and the “alien scientists” dialogue-heavy ‘first contact’ with Mankind as the supposed planet’s saviours inadvertently interrupt a group of dislikeable diamond robbers squabbling over whether to simply murder their captive Jeweller’s driver. Even the painful sounding demise of the slightly-built dome-headed space-farer Tammy, as they are presumably eaten alive by three ever-hungry human cadavers within the wreckage, regrettably occurs off-page.

Indeed it is only towards the end of this twenty-page periodical that the crew of the Tiberuis finally start to seek out “the broken pieces of their ship containing [the] vital equipment [needed] in order to save the planet” and then in a somewhat disappointingly contrived piece of plotting by the publisher’s President and Chief Creative Officer, the primary part of the rocket ship Nova needs to get to has coincidentally crash-landed in the middle of the local graveyard; "I may be able to help you get there... But you're probably not going to like what you find when you get there."

Fortunately, such sedentary conversation-obsessed scenes are still imbued with a sense of suspense, tension and earnest dread as a result of Vincenzo Riccardi’s wonderful artwork and Grosieta’s brilliantly vibrant colours. The cartoonist’s pacing is particularly strong, and whether they be the insectoid-like gymnastic Tak clearing his colleagues a path through the zombie hordes or Tammy slowly being stalked by the undead through an air duct, the Italian penciller impressively realises each of the script’s numerous protagonists and easily brings them to animated life.
The regular cover art of "ALIENS VS. ZOMBIES" No. 2 by Jason Metcalf and Ivan Nunes

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Injection #5 - Image Comics

INJECTION No. 5, September 2015
Supposedly ‘wrapping up the first bulk of story’, Issue Five of “Injection” proves to be a somewhat grisly unsettling affair as “Maria Kilbride goes underground to save a man from the sound of the haunted future” and shockingly ends up literally skinning the archaeologist alive in order to rescue the world from pixies. Indeed Warren Ellis’ narrative finally starts to actually deliver upon the International Horror Guild Award-winner’s pre-publication promise of the comic book containing “science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time”, and surprisingly manages to depict both some genuinely surreal and ghoulishly sinister moments.

Foremost of these has to be the lame Professor’s confrontation with the Spriggan and their innocent naked ‘riding’ vessel. Having easily rescued two fungi-infested workmen by having them simply turn their “outer clothing inside out” and thus breaking the Cornish fairies’ “control”. The understandably grim-faced scientist is then forced to carve open the back of the spirit’s foremost victim with her electromagnetic field-generating blade and despite the fact the man is clearly still consciously alive, rip the hide from his bleeding torso with her bare hands; “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

Just as unsettling, though infinitely less gory and decidedly more unfollowable however, is the revelation that Robin Morel was responsible for creating the “non-biological, non-physical consciousness” within the Injection’s computer code which Kilbride’s group created in order to “bend the terms of the future just enough to ensure innovation didn’t stagnate.” Such a premise is arguably pure Ellis transhumanist mumbo jumbo, and actually gets worse as the “cunning-man” then later seeks out the ghost of “the greatest blacksmith in England” and is admonished for making “the Injection live by infusing it with something from The Other World.”

Disappointingly the Essex-born author also insists on populating his characters’ dialogue with some rather cumbersomely placed swear words. In fact it is infuriatingly hard to understand just why the Eagle Award-winner believes such language is necessary or appropriate for this story as he predominantly only seems to include such vulgarities when his protagonists are talking to one another, as opposed to when Maria is horrifically breaking the physical connection between the Spriggan and its hapless victim.

Possibly just as ‘hit and miss’ as the script is Declan Shalvey’s inconsistent artwork. The Irish penciller’s illustrations of the mushroom-ridden pixie pawns is fiendishly well-detailed, especially when the fairies mouldy machinations are set in motion and start to crawl their way through the dilapidated factory’s tunnels. Yet the same praise cannot be given to several of the artist’s other scenes, with some of his depictions of the mentally disturbed professor proving to be especially awkward-looking and unappealing to the eye.
The regular cover art of "INJECTION" No. 5 by Declan Shalvey

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Journey To Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire #1 - Marvel Comics

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - SHATTERED EMPIRE No. 1, NOVEMBER 2015
Set within the last act of the 1983 “American epic space opera film directed by Richard Marquand”, this twenty page periodical not only depicts “the final moments of the Battle of Endor” as “the Rebellion’s capital ships… buy enough time to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat…” But also introduces two new characters to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away in the shape of Sergeant Kes Dameron and his wife Lieutenant “Green Four” Bey; one of General Han Solo’s Pathfinders and an ace A-Wing pilot who inadvertently almost dispatches a certain Imperial shuttlecraft fleeing the destruction of the Second Death Star; “This is Commander Skywalker, repeat, vessel is under friendly control.”

The inclusion of, and subsequent focus upon, two such newly-created “Star Wars” personalities is a somewhat disappointing move by writer Greg Rucka, as this “new chapter in the Star Wars saga” was advertised by “Marvel Worldwide” as one of “a series of canonical projects” which would “explore the aftermath of Return Of The Jedi” and as such seemed destined to follow the exploits of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie in a post-Palpatine universe rather than any “new addition[s] to the Star Wars canon”. Fortunately however “the acclaimed writer” of “Wolverine” has been very careful not to solely concentrate upon the actions of the two rebel fighters, and instead has weaved them throughout the Emperor’s final moments.

As a result there are some nice scenes shared with the more recognisable ‘heroes of the Rebellion’, such as C-3P0, R2-D2, Nien Nunb and plenty of fuzzy Ewok warriors. Indeed one of the highlights of the narrative is Bey’s interruption of General Solo as he berates a smirking Lando Calrissian for damaging the Millennium Falcon during the space battle as the San Franciscan’s script absolutely nails the smooth-talking smiling former administrator of Cloud City as the “connoisseur of beauty in all things…”

The three-time Eisner Award-winner is equally as successful in producing a storyline which genuinely increases in tension with each and every turn of the page. Having spent the best part of the comic searching to see if her husband still lives after the Death Star’s demise, Green Four then accompanies the Corellian and Chewbacca on a “hot” raid upon “an imperial holdout on the far side of the moon…” and spends a nervy few panels watching the enemy base Dameron is fighting within, waiting to see if the sergeant will return to her arms alive…

Quite possibly this book’s greatest asset though is the incredibly detailed artwork of Marco Checchetto. Rucka’s collaborator on “The Punisher” really manages to ‘nail’ both the grandeur and dynamism of this “untold story”, and additionally captures all the trademark looks and gestures of trilogy actors Billy Dee Williams and Harrison Ford.
The variant cover art of "JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - SHATTERED EMPIRE" No. 1 by Pasqual Ferry

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Walking Dead #127 - Image Comics

THE WALKING DEAD No. 127, June 2014
Considering that this edition of Robert Kirkman’s “black-and-white” comic book was a double-sized publication and ranked as the eighth best-selling title of May 2014 by “Diamond Comic Distributors”, it arguably would not be unreasonable to assume that its lengthy narrative contained twice the action found within the series’ previous “All Out War” story-arc… And indeed for the first few pages of this hefty periodical the Kentucky-born editor would appear to be scripting just that, as “a group of survivors led by Magna” are savagely set upon by “a gigantic herd of over a thousand roamers.” Overwhelming numbers of zombies, a desperate defiant last-ditch stand and poor Bernie being literally eaten alive by the cannibalistic cadavers, all form part of a dramatically gripping sequence which surely must have gotten this magazine’s 71,352 readers as excited about this “New Beginning” as the always-hungry undead apparently were having inadvertently been herded towards their next potential meal by Paul Monroe.

Disappointingly however, once the initial terror and confusion of the attack is over, and the Washington-bound party are safely evacuated on horseback by Heath and Eugene Porter, the “Image Comics” partner’s storyline quickly reverts back to the stale, dialogue-heavy tedium of earlier issues. In fact little genuinely appears to have changed within the hamlet of Alexandria, despite the apparent passage of time since the community’s battle with Negan, and as a result its inhabitants seemingly have little to do but wish one another a good morning and squabble about how long it’s going to take Siddiq to have the settlement ready for “the Fair.” Hardly the most enthralling of subjects for a plot set within the hellish confines of a post zombie apocalypse world.

Equally as apathetic as the lack-lustre, drearily dull writing of Kirkman, is Charlie Adlard’s competent but ‘run of the mill’ illustrations. The British penciller’s artwork depicting Magna and her group quickly realising they are about to be ‘drowned’ in a tidal wave of the living dead is scintillatingly suspenseful, and the characters’ alarm and terror is plain to see in both their wide shocked eyes and tensely drawn faces.

The former “Judge Dredd” artist also somehow manages to convey a real sense of strength and power to the zombie horde as they mindlessly overturn a large metal container through sheer weight of numbers and then start feasting upon the horses who were drawing it along. Sadly though, once events reallocate to the somewhat idyllic safe-zone, and all attention turns to a fully-bearded, noticeably older Rick Grimes, complete with medieval-looking prosthetic hand, then the dynamic energy of Adlard’s drawing style swiftly diminishes and is replaced by an endless series of lifeless panels showing the former sheriff either standing and talking, walking and talking, and, by the end of a long day, sitting and talking…
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Penciller: Charlie Adlard, and Inker: Stefano Gaudiano

Monday, 14 September 2015

Secret Wars #4 - Marvel Comics

SECRET WARS No. 4, SEPTEMBER 2015
Whilst “Secret Wars” is undeniably one of the most enthralling, compelling mini-series to be published by “The House Of Ideas” during the Modern Age of Comics, and is quite possibly a magnum opus of “Marvel Worldwide”. Its first few instalments have arguably had little in common with the original 1984 twelve-issue crossover title written by Jim Shooter. Indeed Jonathan Hickman’s vision of medieval courtroom intrigue and brutal politically-charged (in)justice would appear to have far more in common with George R. R. Martin’s fantasy-based “A Game Of Thrones” novels than the original run’s all-out battling superhero storyline which was tied to a “toyline from Mattel.”

“The Second Offense” changes all this however and finally sees the South Carolina-born author’s extremely engaging narrative start to ‘boil down’ to a simple ‘honest-to-goodness’ slugfest between the good guys and bad, as the Sheriff of Agamotto leads a team of protagonists who survived the creation of “Battleworld” up against the Cabal of Thanos, Black Swan, Terrax, Namor, Proxima Midnight, Maximus, Corvus Glave and the Maker. Indeed as the so-called God Emperor himself states whilst watching Spider-Man confront Galactus’ former-herald from the “planetoid Birj” and the Black Panther wrestle the savage Sub-Mariner, “there is something disquieting and familiar about all of this.”

In addition this twenty-page periodical will also have undoubtedly reassured its 221,041 strong audience that Victor Von Doom is still every bit the evil, maniacal sovereign who was ranked as the fourth Greatest Villain of All Time in 2006 by the entertainment and pop culture magazine “Wizard”. For having previously depicted the armoured Latverian genius as a supposedly benevolent, albeit brutal and disconcertingly intolerant, ruling deity. The Harvey Award-nominee finally has the merciless ruler show his true colours by first having him unblinkingly snap the neck of Scott Summers, after the Phoenix-empowered mutant had tried to permanently remove him from his throne, and then cowardly disintegrate his “old friend” and long-time confident Doctor Strange, simply because the Sorcerer Supreme refuses to call back the heroes and rogues he has saved from his monarch’s wrath by scattering “them to the wind”; “You will not test me, Stephen.”

All of this violent action and bloody betrayal is marvellously drawn by Esad Ribic, with the Croatian’s illustrations of the numerous Thors, “enforcers of Doom’s justice”, fighting the Cabal in the Kingdom of Utopolis, genuinely proving to be an incredibly dynamic thrilling visual treat. Although it is perhaps the panel depicting Victor’s omnipotent pitiless look, having decimated the man who aided his killing of the Beyonders, which will ‘haunt’ this issue’s readers the longest..?
The regular cover art of "SECRET WARS" No. 4 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Future Imperfect #1 - Marvel Comics

FUTURE IMPERFECT No. 1, August 2015
Despite being in some ways an unashamed “reimagining” of his early Nineties mini-series “Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect”, and quite possibly containing one of the more laborious opening narratives of the entire “Secret Wars” 2015 comic book event. This first instalment of Peter David’s “Battleworld” tie-in title is overall a rather enjoyable experience and arguably includes one of the most mouth-watering cliff-hangers “Marvel Worldwide” have published during the Modern Age of Comics, as the “malevolent and even mightier Hulk persona known as the Maestro” encounters the orange, rocky-skinned visage of human mutate powerhouse Benjamin Grimm.

Initially however the majority of the 62,110 readers who journeyed to this “tightly conducted” domain ruled by the bearded, green-skinned "exalted baron", were doubtless perturbed by the Maryland-born writer’s seven-page long opening excursion into the soulless barren wasteland surrounding Dystopia. Indeed this ponderously slow dialogue-heavy beginning, which sees Ruby Summers from “X-Factor” stumble upon the frail and dehydrated form of an old man who claims to be “Odin, the Ruler of Asgard”, proves as lack-lustre a preamble as the searingly hot, dry desert, perfectly drawn by Greg Land, genuinely parches the mouth. Indeed this storyline simply doesn’t 'get going' until half-way through the magazine, when the unsuspecting telepath Slider conducts a scan of the one-eyed Norse God as part of the rebel community’s “routine security” and uncovers that their emaciated visitor is actually none other than Robert Bruce Banner, “typically called the Maestro.”

The introduction of this “wonderfully twisted version” of the Hulk, “with all of his strengths and none of his weaknesses” truly reinvigorates David’s unappealing prose and within the space of a couple of panels brings some much needed energy and urgency to the proceedings. In fact one can almost hear the terrified panic in Janis’ voice as the leader immediately calls out for her compatriots to “Fall back! Everybody fall back!” before the imminent onslaught of the mad century-old despot. Fortunately the daughter of Emma Frost from the “alternate future Earth-1191” isn’t yet ready to retreat from the super-strong “master tactician” and instead provides the Maestro  with “two, perhaps three seconds of concern”, as well as this book’s bibliophiles some momentary action-packed pleasure, before her ruby quartz body starts to shatter in the grip of the behemoth.
Writer: Peter David, Artist: Greg Land, and Colorist: Nolan Woodard

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Brave And The Bold #151 - DC Comics

THE BRAVE ND THE BOLD No. 151, June 1979
Undoubtedly a 'child' of the Late Seventies, “The Disco Of Death” is as fantastically corny and riddled with the ambience of the 1977 American dance film “Saturday Night Fever” as its horribly trite story title would suggest. Indeed this seventeen-page periodical even dares portray the oft-times moody socialite Bruce Wayne not only taking to the dance floor “choked with gyrating bodies, rocking with sound and pulsating with whirling lights”. But also has the billionaire ‘bogeying on down’ with jetsetter Rhonda to “Staying Alive” whilst wearing a flashy white “John Travolta” leisure suit drawn by legendary series artist James “Jim” Aparo; “Ha! Ha! Come on, Bruce -- You don’t want Batman being the only “secret swinger” besides Alfred in town!”

This tongue-in-cheek comical portrayal of the Caped Crusader’s public persona surprisingly actually gets wincingly worse though once Bob Haney’s script has the Scarlet Speedster, Barry Allen, and his “liberated” wife join the partying Industrialist under the disco ball. For the two superheroes encounter the freakish-looking “Phantom of the Stardust”, complete with operatic horror mask, and having watched the cloaked scintillating performer ‘show up from nowhere, dance for hours with one foxy knocked out chick and then vanish’, quickly realise that the “bizarre figure” is actually responsible for at least “two unexplained deaths” at “The Stardust Discotheque!”

Such a dramatic deduction fortunately however proves to be the making of this book’s storyline, and seems to give the co-creator of the “Teen Titans” the opportunity to turn the “chauvinist devil” Wayne back into the thug-bashing night-time detective the cowled character was originally envisaged by Bob Kane as being. Whilst simultaneously providing the infinitely more colourful “Monarch of Motion” a far more fittingly light-hearted solo-mission “chasing figments of his own imagination” by trying to get “a ghost to free a ghost!”

Admittedly some of the “DC Comics” long-time writer’s plot points do become rather contrived as a result, such as the Flash’s blasé use of “his amazing Cosmic Treadmill to race back through the time barrier to the 1930’s” in order to photograph the Phantom’s dancing dead girlfriend and Batman’s miraculous discovery that Allen's spouse Iris is a ‘dead-ringer’ for Jack Dawes’ deceased Emily. But there again this entire hokey Haney narrative is based upon the whacky premise of a Prohibition-era spectral murderer disco-dancing his victims to death…
Writer: Bob Haney, Artist: Jim Aparo, and Colorist: Jerry Serpe

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Daredevil #15 - Marvel Comics

DAREDEVIL No. 15, June 2015
Since taking over as this title’s lead storyteller in 2011 Mark Waid has undoubtedly carried “Daredevil” from out of “the shadows of decades’ worth of grim and gritty stories” and transformed the often bleak-looking psychologically-demonised hero into one which not only displays a far more “cheerful outlook on life”, but is arguably a ‘throwback’ to the vigilante’s “sunny early superhero days”. For whereas under the penmanship of writing legend Frank Miller the costumed crime-fighter fought injustice in a dark moody world heavily influenced by Film Noir and “the malaise of the Seventies inflation-era America”, the Alabama-born author’s version of Matt Murdock has, in the main, been confronted by a surprisingly lighter vein of colourful supervillains, many of which, such as the Purple Man, Stunt Master and the Matador, actually hark back to some of Hornhead’s earliest issues when Stan Lee and Bill Everett’s creation was arguably largely seen as little more than a “poor man’s Spider-Man”.

“Darkness Falls” undeniably changes this somewhat heavily criticised devolution of Hornhead into a “light-hearted, juvenile… grinning… wisecracking celebrity”, and within the space of just a few panels completely turns the “silly” life of ‘The Man Without Fear’ on its head. Indeed it is genuinely hard to imagine a more abrupt and damning change in a comic character’s circumstances without some prominent member of their supporting cast dying, as the deadly combination of the Shroud and the Owl publically broadcast every secret, lie and piece of legal privilege the blind lawyer has kept hidden since Murdock first encountered Maximillian Coleridge and Leland Owlsley in San Franscisco.

The fiends even target Matt’s girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie, revealing the woman he loves “wasn’t there for my mother when she died… I was drunk in a bar” as well as ex-business partner Foggy Nelson, whose death was “very publically faked” by the blind lawyer “in order to protect his best friend.” These massive disclosures of dishonesty, as well as the misguided belief Daredevil had her “daughter kidnapped just so you could rescue her” swiftly turn the city's deputy Mayor against the three-piece suited vigilante and within moments “half the [police] force” are shooting at him; “I don’t want to hear it right now! I can’t believe a word you say! No one will ever believe you after this!”

Such a dramatic enthralling turn in events would arguably make Issue Fifteen of “Daredevil” worth its cover price alone to its 32,541 readers. But Waid actually goes one step further with this comic’s theatrical conclusion by reintroducing “the only one imaginable with enough power and influence to put this genie back in its bottle”, the arch-nemesis of Murdock, Wilson Fisk… a.k.a. the Kingpin.
The regular cover art of "DAREDEVIL" No. 15 by Chris Samnee

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Avengers: Operation Hydra #1 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS: OPERATION HYDRA No. 1, June 2015
Firmly set within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” as opposed to the New York-based publisher’s comic book shared cosmos, this one-shot could very easily be criticised as being little more than a ‘cash-in’ on the 2015 “Summer blockbuster film” “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”. Indeed not only was this “all-new adventure” by Will Corona Pilgrim blatantly advertised by “Marvel Worldwide” as being a forerunner to Joss Whedon’s ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ silver screen sequel. But, having firmly established the “terrorist-military organization bent on world domination” with the motion picture “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, this magazine also supposedly explores what happens just before the Sentinel of Liberty and his truly formidable team-mates cinematically confront Baron Wolfgang von Strucker at his Sokovian-based Hydra outpost.

Sadly, having established such a dubiously-motivated pedigree, the “Marvel Studios” Creative Research Manager’s narrative disappointingly lives up to its low expectations by delivering an extraordinarily simple tale of “a secret Hydra splinter cell”, led by the incredibly ‘over-the-top’ Doctor Jensen, being somewhat unceremoniously battered to pieces by the combined forces of the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America. In fact, with the exception of a perturbing sub-plot which focuses upon Clint Barton’s insecurities over “someone else grabbing my seat on the Avengers” just because he doesn't have either Tony Stark's armour or Steve Rogers' "super serum-ness", this twenty-page periodical’s storyline arguably consists of very little else but heavily-armed Hydra operatives being severely trounced in a variety of ways by the handful of heroes; “Thank you for choosing air widow. We hope you’ve enjoyed your flight.”

Fortunately “Avengers: Operation Hydra” does have one saving grace, apart from being available sporting a Silver Age Jack Kirby “The Old Order Changeth!” variant cover and containing a reprint of Issue Sixteen of “The Avengers” from May 1965, in that it’s wonderfully drawn by former “The Thing” penciller , Andrea Di Vito. Admittedly the Italian comic book artist’s popular super-team don’t really resemble their celluloid counter-parts, with Doctor Bruce Banner and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s former archer agent proving particularly disappointing likenesses when compared to the actors who play them. But costume-wise the Rome-born illustrator is reasonably ‘spot-on’, even going so far as to having Natasha Romanova dressed in her “Tony Stark-designed high tech suit”.
The regular cover art of "AVENGERS:OPERATION HYDRA" No. 1 by Michael Ryan

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Tomb Of Dracula #7 - Marvel Comics

TOMB OF DRACULA No. 7, March 1973
Despite comprising of a confusingly busy narrative, which not only contains an astonishingly high number of notable characters such as Edith Harker, Rachel van Helsing, Frank Drake, Taj and the cravenly Clifton Graves, but also a seemingly endless series of contrived happenstances which swiftly bring the entire party of protagonists into direct contact with the Transylvanian nobleman on the wintry streets of London, “Night Of The Death Stalkers” also provides its readers with the thoroughly compelling beginnings of a titanic “ongoing saga plotting its title’s vampire count against a group of vampire hunters” under the penmanship of two-time Eagle Award-winner Marv Wolfman. Indeed “eleven months, six issues and three writers after the launch” of “The Tomb Of Dracula” there is finally a palpable sense of long-term direction with this issue’s storyline as the Brooklyn-born writer introduces the comic book’s readership to the fanged fiend’s elderly wheelchair-bound nemesis, Quincy Harker and establishes that the invalid has “dedicated” the past sixty years of his life to finding people ‘who shared his hatred for the Undead.’

Having provided such a formidably inventive, albeit partially paralysed, foil for the scheming ‘supervillain’, the creator of Blade also supplies the cloaked aristocrat with something of a makeover within this twenty-page periodical by reinforcing, partially through a citation from “The Chronicles of Abraham Van Helsing… 1888”, that Dracula has both the power to “direct the elements: the rain, the thunder, the snow” and the ability to hypnotize groups of humans with a “deathly stare” into “zombie-like attackers”. Both of these supernatural aptitudes are crucial to this magazine’s central plot as the hungry patrician first buries England’s capital city under a “bitter hoarfrost” and then callously traps his numerous foes with a horde of “drugged” children who “are compelled to destroy” Harker and “will not stop until they are successful.”; “You cannot stop them, because to stop them, you must kill them! And you, Mister Drake… You could never bring yourself to murder a child. Ha! Ha! Ha!”   

Somewhat disappointingly however, Gene Colan’s artwork for this fascinating confrontation between Dracula and his “old friend” Quincy, is slightly inconsistent, especially when it comes to the classic horror illustrator’s depiction of the Lord of Vampires himself. Admittedly the vast majority of panels containing Graves’ ungrateful “Master” adhere to the Bronx-born penciller’s innovative and inspired vision of him looking like actor Jack Palance. But dishearteningly, whether as a result of Tom Palmer’s errant inking or not, the “loathsome” monster occasionally appears to resemble little more than a shoddily-drawn red-eyed devil with a disturbingly bouffant widow’s peak.
Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Gene Colan, and Inker: Tom Palmer